How to save big bucks on back-to-school shopping
School terms across Australia restart from next week and parents are being urged to get their spending sorted fast.
Whether it's stationery, books, uniforms, technology, backpacks or lunch boxes, costs can hit hard in the last couple of weeks of January but finance specialists say there are several ways to prevent these education pains.
MyBudget founder and director Tammy Barton says she has noticed that some stores offering discounted school uniforms and supplies "seem to be running low on stock already".
"It's easy and convenient to buy the recommended book and stationery pack every year, but do you really need everything on the list?" she says.
"Do a stocktake of your existing stationery and other resources."
Consider protective cases for technology items to avoid repair costs later, and look for uniform alternatives where possible, Barton says.
"A lot of preloved uniforms are lightly worn and a fraction of the price of new - get in early to find your child's size and quality items."
Barton says paying school fees upfront to get discount may be beneficial, but only if is doesn't leave you financially stressed. For many people, paying off fees over time works best.
"We find that most schools are flexible and accommodating," Barton says.
Like many families, Ashene and Jeshlyn Ranasinghe had a "challenging year" in 2020.
"Because of this, we are much more aware of our spending for back-to-school this year," he says.
"We are looking to keep costs low."
The family uses the Officeworks free school list service, where parents upload and order their school list online. "We have found this to be the cheapest and most convenient option," Ranasinghe says.
Officeworks managing director Sarah Hunter says its research has found parents becoming more involved with their children's education.
"This, together with the many consumer behaviours we've seen emerge from COVID-19 - increased online shopping and more focus on value and sustainability - we believe is going to change the way parents shop for their children's school supplies," she says.
Financial planner and author Canna Campbell says it's a good idea for parents to include their children in the responsibility of back-to-school shopping.
"Although you may have to negotiate why 17 different coloured pens might not be that useful for the year ahead," she says.
Campbell says parents should label everything they buy, and aim to choose quality over quantity.
"We all know the wear and tear kids put their belongings through, so make sure any item you buy will actually last," she says.
"Because if it looks flimsy or like it will break, you're going to end up back in the store anyway.
"Also consider reusable products such as aluminium water bottles and lunch boxes, silicon lunch bags, refillable pens and ethically sourced pencils. Setting these environmental intentions early is such a crucial message for your children."
YOUR CHECKLIST FOR SHOPPING WISELY
• Compare prices online first and find retailers that price match.
• Buy drink bottles with tight screw lids to stop school bag leaking incidents damaging books and technology.
• Textbooks can cost more than $50 each - do your older children or friends have books from previous years that will do the job? Some shops specialise in second-hand books.
• Find out if your school has a second-hand uniform shop selling quality items.
• Check if friends who have older children have good-quality uniforms, and share the love by offering others with younger kids your used stuff.
• Paying school fees upfront to get a discount only makes sense if you don't have to borrow money for it and it doesn't damage your finances.
• If struggling financially, talk to your school about putting a fee payment plan in place.
Originally published as How to save big bucks on back-to-school shopping